In Nashville — Virtually!

A screen shot that Scott took during the presentation.  The window to the left, with the arrow, is the slide show — via SlideShare.

It’s not every day that I get to do a presentation and stay home at the same time.  Scott Merrick contacted me a couple of weeks ago, describing a workshop he was planning for teachers in the Nashville area.  He asked if I would be available to Skype in to the workshop and talk a bit about Web 2.0 and its implications for literacy.  We tested our Skype connection in the morning, with no glitches, and then scheduled my presentation for 2:00 (east coast time). 

Of course, there were some glitches at 2:00, as I was not able to see my audience, via Scott’s camera, but my iSight worked well, and I’m getting better at presenting into a camera.  Use to terrify me — completely befuddle my mind. 

I re-worked one of my presentations, and uploaded it to SlideShare.  I then added a link to the online handouts blog posting for the session, that clicked out a small browser window, sized for the slides, so that each participant was able to follow along with the slides.

I also set up the Twitteresque chat page for the group, and this is what was interesting.  They participated in the chat, posing questions, making comments, saying, “Hi!” more than any group so far — and I wonder why that was.  Was it because I wasn’t there?  Was it that they didn’t feel the need of courtesy to keep eye contact with me?  Was it that they were all sitting with desktop computers in front of them?  Was it that they had command of the slide show?  I am curious!

After the presentation, I transferred the chat transcript over to a wiki for the group, and inserted a few comments of my own, responding to some of their questions.  All-in-all, it was an interesting experience that I am getting more accustomed to.  It isn’t like being there.  Nothing’s like being there.  But virtual presentations are working.  Who would have thought?

Seeking Balance in a Skewed Lifestyle

Farmers MarketBrenda and I just got back from the Raleigh Farmer’s Market.  I was surprised at how busy they were.  We actually had to leave some stalls and come back later because of the demand —  mostly for peaches.  Most stalls were a repeat of tomatoes, field peas, young potatoes, okra, and just about every variety of squash and eggplant imaginable.

The shear volume and variety of produce and locally made nick-nack merchandise indicated enormous work and ingenuity, and the range of colors were so pleasing to the eye.   It was humbling?

Do these folks and their children need to be able to search and evaluate Net-based information?  Do they need to be able to produce video, publish on the web, or analyze tabular data from the web?  Well, the answer is yes.  However, it isn’t their whole world.  It’s a hammer and a saw — a hoe and a rake. 

I’m an evangelist!  As such, I’m warped.  I have a skewed perspective — and I appreciate that.  I simply hope to be able to recognize opportunities for balance and to seize on them.  Perhaps the peach cobbler Brenda’s making right now will be one of those opportunities 🙂

Reading and Becoming

Doug Johnson started yesterday’s blog in typical Blue Skunk fashion.

Doug Johnson’s Blue Skunk Blog – Blue Skunk Blog – Are Your Ideas Sticky?:

I’ll admit that it was the duct tape on the cover that drew my attention to this book. Like all good Minnesotans, I use this silver miracle to fix almost everything. (If it moves and shouldn’t…) Happily, the content lived up to the cover of book…

The Blue SkunkThe book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, (ISBN 978-1400064281) by Chip and Dan Heath, explores some of the characteristics of sticky ideas.  It’s a theme that David Jakes (Strength of Weak Ties) discusses and presents on frequently, and I’m not going to push it any further than that, because I’ve not read the book. 

Please do read Doug’s detailed report.

What’s got my head itching is the reading that we are doing — we, being educators.  Of course I’m talking about a small sub-genre of educator who is unsatisfied with today’s short sighted education system, is reform conscious, mostly smart, mostly tech savvy, and is almost giddy about the possibilities and the demands of an emerging information landscape.

Admittedly, my long-term memory has been somewhat set aside for a lifestyle that is just trying to be ready for the next presentation, to fix a current stubborn programming bug, or to finish up what ever writing I’ve set for myself.  So I don’t clearly remember, the kind of reading I was doing when I was more directly seated in some educational institution.  I know that I’ve read most of the edu-rati that Gary Stager mentions, and although I can’t quote them, they are a part of my prevailing education philosophy.

But what are we reading now?  Are they business books?  Are they philosophy books? Are they lifestyle books?  Daniel Pink admitted the other day that, that A Whole New Mind (ISBN 978-1594481710) was intended to be a business book — that he was somewhat surprised at how the education community has taken it up.

Some of the books that have driven me lately are The Search, Wikinomics, The Long Tail, and I’ve been bouncing in and out of David Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous.  If it is true that educators are increasingly going outside traditional education literature for inspiration and technique, that this is indeed a phenomenon, what does it mean?  What’s changed?

Is it that effective and compelling communication, as a critical everyday working skill, has become more essential to a much larger part of an economy that increasingly generates wealth from conceptualizing rather than industrializing?


Is it that we find ourselves in classrooms that are no longer limited to textbooks and book shelves, but opening up to almost unlimited content and opportunities to work the content?  Are we acting on a desperate need to reach beyond the pedagogy of information scarcity — looking for ways to provoke learning in an environment of information abundance?

What do you think?

Student Panel at NJELITE Leadershp Conference

[Live blogged, so please forgive typos and awkward wording]

Panel Session of Teens and TweensMy sessions are over, and the ferry is waiting. But there is one final session, a panel discussion of some teenagers — the Net Generation. I middle schooler, one graduating senion, on rising senior, and an elementary school. The graduated senior just said that schools should be the first place where new technologies appear. They attended a session here about podcasting and were, evidently, impressed. They want to see podcasting in their classrooms.

The elementary student just said that she was tired of having to go to the lab to do technology. She said that each student should have a laptop. The graduated senior said, “In the workplace, you don’t make people share computers.”

Jenny just asked the question — what do you see in the future with technology.

  • Cars that drive themselves
  • Robots
  • Advances in GPS — integrating

What about video games. The middle school students siad that video games will help students develop social skills. The graduate is talking about a World War II game, and how it might help with history classes. He is using some impressive vocabulary.

Nothing else coming. Jenny then asked, do you play games. All four raised their hands immediately. They’ve gone to the youngest student, and asked her and she’s talking about a virtual environment game called Animal Crossing where she meets her friends, goes to their houses, and works to “pay off her loans.”

I’m seeing a lot of evidence of these kids having trouble seeing connections between their video game and other home information experiences and their classrooms.

They’re now opening questions up to the audience. Someone is asking about violent video games. Do they think that they make kids more violent. “I says that peole get angry toward the video game.” “I don’t see any influence from my violent video games.” “When you’re watching TV, and something violent happens, you can see the differences between how older people reach and younger viewers.”

I just asked if they used a social network (MySpace, FaceBook, or Bebo, etc.) Only one of them does, the rising senior. One boy said that his Dad convinced him that it was a waste of time. Of the boy who uses MySpace, I asked how he stayed safe. He described some things that he did with his profile to keep himself anonymous. Then I asked, “Who taught you that!” He looked confused, “Who taught me?” I guess the guy who built the site. I just figured it out. “So it was because it seemed like the size thing to do?” “Yes!”

“My teachers are not teaching me how to use the Internet. They just teach you how to use Google. There is so much more to finding information on the Internet than just Google.”

“What’s getting missed in school is Art. One of the best, most useful classes I too was Digital Photography.”

More Quotes from the Games + Learning + Society Conference

Homeland Security GameUp early.  With no keynote to do today and with the video games session already part of my muscle memory, I’m reviewing some of my notes from the Games + Learning + Society conference.  I’m including some quotes here with some comments:

Instructional designers have no business designing games.  For instructional designers, its hard to design something that allows for failure.

I thought that this was interesting, though I have no real experience to consider this statement.  My first programming was in writing little games.  In 1982, games was about all that people did with personal computers.  I do remember that I had more fun writing code.  I’d spend two weeks on a game, play it for about a half hour, and then start working on a new game.

“There’s probably more learning theory involved in the commercial games than the training simulations.”  — Karl Royle

Again, I have nothing upon which to base any comment here, except to wonder if there is something in designing a game for the player’s sake, as opposed to making the game for the content’s sake.

Games are difficult to assess in terms of curriculum integration.  It’s easier to assess a text book.

Mostly we want to teach something, and this is the bases of the assessment, the “what” that we want to teach.  When we want to teach a skill, it’s the “teach” that we concentrate on.  Does pedagogy ever get in the way?

Integration was more successful than we thought.  Very inventive teachers.

teacher who were most successful were the onse who were experienced teachers, willing to put in the work, and to trust the kids…

This was the session by Angela McFarlane on the use of COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) games in the UK.  No surprise here, especially the part about experienced teachers.  I think that the most profound part of this statement, the part that made me write this down was about trusting the kids.

learning is a process of creation — not a precess of consumption.

Old news for most of the readers of this blog.  It’s constructivist.

We have to understand that education is not what “Fanfiction” is about. It’s about participation.  education is a by-product.  might we damage the experience if we insert pedagogy.

I added a slide to my “Video Games as Learning Engines” presentation that asks, “Can we teach with video games, or only learn?

10 and 15 years ago, games were only capable of drill and practice, but we desired more depth.  Today, games are capable of such depth, but we are interested in the memorizing of facts.

How true!  Our children’s outside-the-classroom information expeirences have become far more rich and complex, while their inside-the-classroom experiences have been dumbed down — for the sake of accounting for our own ability to teach (testing).

Critical moments in game design

when someone says…

1. can I try?

2. can I save?

3. Let me show you?

— Katie Salen

Hmmm!  I really like this.  So might we apply it to a lesson.  Critical moments in a lesson are when a learner says…

1. Can I try?

2. Can I save my work?

3. Let me show you what I’ve learned?

…schools force students into the bell curve.  Many if not most gamers are, in many ways, avoiding the bell curve — defying the bell curve.

can we use these technologies to transform education in incremental ways, or do we have to blow up the paradigm, and it’s clear that we’re going to have to blow up the paradigm. — James Paul Gee

Enough said!

An Interesting Day in Wildwood

 Singing Vendors
Singing Vendors at Wildwood 2007

When I got to the convention center, in Wildwood, yesterday, I was informed immediately that the Internet was down, but that they were working on it and it should be up in minutes.  I was not very worried, because I was presenting on games in education, which is mostly presentation slides and video.  But I did worry about Beth Lynne Ritter-Guth, who was presenting on Second Life.  As it turned out, it was the local ISP that was down, and it took almost all day to bring the Internet back up.

After two sessions, the conference organizers decided to change the schedule a bit.  Rather than do the rest of the scheduled breakout sessions, they asked if I would be willing to do the keynote address during the afternoon, and the rest of the breakout sessions on Friday.  Even though I was not entirely ready and had not rehearsed it yet, I agreed, because this seemed like a good way for the Second Life and the CIESE presentations to work — assuming that we’d have Internet the next day.

Also part of the change in schedule was a presentation by Verizon on Thinkfinity (think Marco Polo).  I asked if they would go first, after lunch, so that I would have time to finish up my slides.  They agreed, and a very engaging presenter walked through some of the aspects of the new Marco Polo — Thinkfinity.  I’m not being fair, because I was only paying half attention to the presentation (perhaps as little as a quarter), but I didn’t really see anything new.  They’ve obviously made changes and beefed things up, but in a broader sense, what’s new.  I’ll ask them today, and report if I find anything new and noteworthy.

Anyway, I did my keynote at about 3:00 (not a good time to deliver a keynote) and it seemed to go well.  It was about new literacy, but from the perspective of Web 2.0.  Web 1.0 changed the behavior of information by making it more networked, digital, and overwhelming.  Web 2.0 makes it more participatory, reader directed, and people-connecting.  This changes was it means to be a reader, a processor of information, and a communicator.  Blah blah blah — you’ve heard it before.

My main take-away was that administrators (principals and superintendents), by and large, get it.  They know that things are changing and that their schools are not.  But, like teachers, they are constrained by the demands of their jobs and by a federal education system that discourages innovation and forward thinking.  No Child Left Behind implies that there is a place that schools should be, and once there, all will be well.  It should be All Children Ready for the Future.

Daniel Pink at Leadership Event in New Jersey

[Live blogged — so please forgive typos and awkward wording]

Daniel PinkPink is describing how he was an extremely, unextraordinary student. His position in law school made the upper 90% possible. He went to law school because it was believed that you would be fine. It made sense in the 20th century. Those skills still matter, but they do not matter as much now.

You’ve got your left hemisphere and your right hemisphere. This is garbage. But it serves as a very useful metaphor. Our brains are unfathmably complex and extreme elegant. Left brain/right brain. He just explained it. You know it.

Use to be that the left brain skills were what were valued and needed for the work place in the last century. They are still necessary. He emphasized — they are still absolutely necessary. But now we also need the other side, the more artistic, intuitive, …

He says, “The purpose of education is not to deliver employees to employers.”

The factors

  1. Abundance
  2. Asia
  3. Automation


The U.S. is doing very well. We are so very well off materially. We have 12% in poverty, and it is a disgrace — a historically damning disgrace. More cars in America than drivers. Think of storage units — we have so much “stuff.”

abundance gapSo with abundance, there is competition. I want you to buy my stuff. But I don’t want to lower prices. It’s a death spiral. Instead, I want to concentrate on asthetics — layoff the engineers and hire designers.

The U.S. has become increasingly prosperous, but our satisfaction index has unchanged. He calls this the Abundance Gap. We’ve democratized the search for meaning.


Off shoring has been massively over hyped. Statistically, it has not been very large, not impact. Over hyped in the short time — but under hyped in the long term. There are a billion people in India. 15% of that is 150,000,000. That’s larger than the population of Japan, the second largest economy. 150,000,000 than workers in the U.S., the worlds largest economy.

2010, India will be the world largest English speaking nation — and they can speak to America for free (he just pointed out someone in the audience with a MacBook). Any work that is routine is disappearing from the U.S. and going to… That’s left brain stuff.

“Yet, there is a mania that our eucation system want to prepare children for routine work, when there won’t be any routine jobs in Ameria in our future.” (nearly a quote)


No longer computer skills that we need. It’s skills that can’t be outsourced. Robert Sternberg has developed an alternative SAT — the Rainbow Project. You get a blank New Yorker cartoon, you have to write your own caption. It is a better predictor of college success than the traditional SAT.

Two-thirds of Georgia Techs attendees play a musical instrument. Employers are saying, don’t send us bubble sheet wienies. (his words).

Six abilities that matter the most:

  1. Design
  2. Story
  3. Symphony — the ability to see the big picture, recognize patterns, see what’s not there.
  4. Empathy
  5. Play
  6. Meaning

In the Middle of Nowhere

Google Earth Map Directions
I just love Skitch.  It is the perfect graphic utility.

While the Laptop Institute is winding down, and the Building Learning Communities conference is winding itself up, I’m sitting in the middle of nowhere.  It’s a Hampton Inn in Salisbury, Maryland, in the middle of the Delmar Penninsula.  It’s 4:11 and I just got through to tech support, so Internet started running much better, though I’m beginning to worry again as I try to load Google Maps.  Now I’m trying Google Earth to see if it comes up better.

Anyway, I just wanted to write to say that I do not feel entirely left out.  In a few hours I’ll leave my hotel to drive about an hour to Lewes, Maryland, where I’ll take a magnificent ferry boat ride to Cape May, New Jersey (pictures to come).  From Cape May, I’ll drive another 15 minutes to Wildwood for NJELITE’s annual Wildwood conference for school administrators.  I’ve worked this conference several times in the past, though not in a couple of years.  It was originally funded by Bill & Melinda Gates, when they were funding administrative staff development, but this conference now runs on its own momentum. 

The conference use to be run like a workshop, where groups of administrators would work together with technology trainers from across New Jersey and neighboring Pennsylvania.  But this year administrators will cycle through sessions such as…

  • Daniel PinkUnique & Compelling Internet Applications for the 21st Century Learner — from CIESE (Mercedes McKay, Associate Director)
  • Podcasting — from Apple (David Marra)
  • Thinkfinity — from Verizon
  • Teaching through Second Life — Beth Lynne Ritter-Guth, Lehigh Carbon Community College
  • Video Games as Learning Engines — I’ll be doing that one
  • “Net Generation” Speaks Out — a panel presentation from local students

I’ll also be closing the conference with a keynote about 21st century literacy.  The theme of the conference is “Digital Age Literacy.”

The high point, however, in my opinion, will be the opening keynote by Daniel Pink, author of Free Agent Nation and A Whole New Mind.  I will likely be blogging his keynote, A Different World, A Different Worker, plus, he’ll be doing a follow-up discussion about Transitioning from the Information to The Conceptual Age

Twitteresque discussion session in New Orleans…

I’ve continued to be intrigued by Twitter, the web app that asks, “Why do I keep using this?” Well the answer is that tucked in between rants about the Cubs, crying babies, solitary bicycle rides, and proclamations of insomnia, are nuggets of knowledge and pathways to learning.

One example is this twit from David Jakes…

Trying to wrap my head around Chris Sessums’ latest blog post.

When I see something like this, I go read it too. I wouldn’t have without being a part of this Twitter conversation — this twitter team.

So, I’ve been trying to figure out how to include this conversational technique into a presentation or workshop — and I couldn’t reason it out, because of the logistics of how partners are made in Twitter. So I stepped back to chats and found an open source Ajax driven chat application (AjaxChat), which I installed on my server.

So, after my keynote yesterday, we had a discussion session in one of the school’s classrooms and about half of the attendees had their laptops. So I pointed them to the chat app, and suggested that as we discussed the issues of the opening address, they also post comments on the chat. AjaxChat works really nicely, in that as comments are posted, they appear immediately on the screens of others who are there. I had it running through the the LCD projector as well, so that everyone could watch.

My idea was to engineer two parallel conversations that hopefully could intersect in some useful ways. I won’t say that I was disappointed, because it was my first try. There was one main commenter, one of the tech guys, who’s writings were so clever, that they may have intimidated other commenters. I couldn’t have topped him. Plus, I ran the EPIC 2014 video in the beginning as a way of starting the conversation, and this may have been a mistake. It elicited some fairly impassioned (and important) concerns about security, safety, declines in interpersonal skills, etc. and I wonder if this conversation drew so much focus that the underground twitteresque conversation got ignored. I don’t know.

At any rate, I’m going to try this again. I wrote a little program that will strip out all of the existing comments, create a wiki page, and insert them into the wiki, so that session participants can return and collaboratively work through the conversation.

Just another experiment!

Image Citation Ramirez, Luis. “Luisramirezuchile’s Photostream.” Twitter Mobile. 9 Jun 2007. 17 Jul 2007 .

Playing? In the Library?

I got pounded yesterday for not including “librarians” in my list of educators and education stakeholders who need to rise to the challenge of adapting to the opportunities of video games.  Several comments accented this point, which was originally made by Jenny Levine

AND libraries! Sorry to beat a dead horse, but I still believe that the school library is our best bet for introducing information literacy training and general assessment via video games into the school setting. In fact, I think libraries can do more than almost any other entity, inside and outside of the school.

I tried to find a picture of a LAN party that was coed.  I know that girls use to attend the ones that my son would go to.  But perhaps girls just don’t like to have their pictures taken there 😉

Well, I apologize, and I true wonder why I left our schools’ information specialists out of the list, except that perhaps it seemed too obvious to me, subconsciously.  At any rate, Jenny and I’d had that very conversation at the GLS conference, that perhaps libraries are the logical place to bring video games into the more formal learning experience — the place to build our half of the bridge.

I’ve frequently suggested that librarians host LAN parties, include strategies guides in their collections, hold game discussion groups, suggest/feature video games related to units of study, and invite speakers who can talk about appropriate use of video games.  So, I have to admit that I am a bit baffled as to why librarians didn’t make my list.

This brings me to another point.  Now this is my opinion, but I do not believe that blog postings are meant to be scholarly dissertations, perfectly considering every point, every example, every definition, every eventuality.  They should be better considered than IM postings and better crafted than most e-mail messages, but they (mine) are typically written in one or two sittings and rarely with more than an hour of writing.  I leave things out.  I leave terms undefined.  Sometimes I get it wrong, and I’m happy that I do.  Because everything that is not included, that is important, gets added through comments from thoughtful readers and through continuing conversations.  If it’s an important addition, such as including librarians in a conversation about video games in schools, I will usually elevate it to a new blog posting to make it available to more readers.

As I’ve said many times before, I write this blog to learn

I only wish that I had the time to address every question and correction!

Image Citation:
Lamotta, Jake. “FurLAN Party@Paparotti.” JakeLamotta82’s Photostream. 4 Feb 2007. 17 Jul 2007 <>.